Home Feature How’s everyone doing out there? (July 6 edition)

How’s everyone doing out there? (July 6 edition)

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Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay.

The summer is a time when artists, fans and industry people would normally be gathering at summer festivals and catching up after months of not seeing each other. That’s just one part of the summer festival experience we’re missing out on this year, but we’ve decided to do something about it here at Roots Music Canada. We’ve started calling up friends and colleagues in the music business to see how the last few months of have gone for them. We’re featuring clusters of their responses in these columns. So without further ado, here is this week’s edition of How’s Everyone Doing Out There?

Jane Eamon – singer-songwriter

For Jane, it was enough to get through a day sometimes even before COVID-19 hit. That’s because her husband, Gord, is currently battling Stage Four prostate cancer.

So when the pandemic first resulted in mass concert cancellations, she said she was actually excited by the prospect that artists such as her, who had reduced their touring, might now be on a level playing field with those that are still road warriors. But once she started trying to figure out live streaming, she realized it might not be that easy.

“I did my very first one, and I think it was beginner’s luck, ‘cause I haven’t been able to duplicate it,” she said, referring to the technical glitches she’s struggled with. “It’s a learning curve for sure with tech for me.”

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She’s been using her time off the road to engage deeply in her art — playing, writing and taking photographs — almost as a kind of therapy, learning what she can from what flows out of her. She’s been sharing some of her reflections with others, often through Facebook, as a means of trying to sort out what she feels.

“Being alone a lot has pushed that kind of deeper thinking to the fore,” she said. “I spend a lot of time in my head and in nature, spend time with Gord and try to make it deeper. I guess I’ve been affected by the intensity of this pandemic. It’s made me think about life in profound ways.”

Outwardly, Jane’s life still looks in many ways like it did before COVID-19; she’s still working at her day job – where staff are required to wear masks. But inwardly, she’s been thinking a lot about the kinds of changes she’d like to see in society as it slowly emerges from the pandemic.

“Recognize our seniors so they don’t live in poverty or neglect,” she said. “Teach young people mandatory money skills. I wish there was a way to hone the music industry so it becomes [about] craft and the recognition of that instead of a popularity contest. Rework the whole idea of work ? office work, the gap of wages and income.”

“This is a golden opportunity,” she continued. “We have been given a chance to pause and start over. How wonderful is that?”

 

Chris McKhool – violinist and co-founder of Sultans of String

While most artists contend with the fall-out from cancelled concerts, Chris is dealing with a different problem: his shows aren’t cancelled. And they’re in the United States, which is still accessible by air despite the closure of the border, and where the spread of COVID-19 is wildly out of control.

“So many questions,” he said. “Like what would happen if we did go on tour in the US and one of us gets sick? Does insurance cover a hospital stay for COVID? How would we make sense of needing to quarantine for 14 days when we came back, when our families need us to do things?”

He’s currently trying to persuade promoters to turn their performances into virtual Zoom shows, he said.

Meanwhile, Chris and his entire family have embraced technology at a level few artists have. He, his educator wife and their nine-year-old daughter are doing a weekly live stream for other families stuck at home together.

“We sing songs, tell stories, use puppets and tell corny jokes,” he explained.

“I have been teaching myself how to use a production software called Ecamm Live, so we can do a multi-camera concert direct from home. So far, I have three to four cameras hooked up on a switcher I drive with my foot, so I can play and produce a TV special at the same time.”

Impressive, Chris.

At the same time, Sultans of String’s latest album, Refuge, has taken on new resonance in the era of anti-racism protests across the planet. It features collaborations with talented artists from a variety of backgrounds, many of whom are immigrants — and it was recorded in the Indigenous-owned Jukasa studio in Six Nations of the Grand River territory.

“It has been a very difficult time for everyone, as it becomes clear how many institutional and structural barriers still exist impacting Indigenous people and people of colour,” Chris said. “It has made me realize that we are on the right track with this project, amplifying these important voices.”

 

David Newland – singer-songwriter, writer, co-founder of Roots Music Canada

David’s entire multifaceted career came grinding to a halt in March when he simultaneously lost all his performances and speaking engagements while also getting laid off from his job at Adventure Canada — where he does promotional work and hosts expedition cruises in remote travel destinations.

But he’s found plenty of new things to keep him busy. He launched a podcast called Goodness Knows, about “finding kernels of worth or wisdom in difficult times.” He’s been blogging furiously at DavidNewland.com, and he’s been gardening up a storm and collecting water in giant rain barrels and documenting his efforts on Facebook.

“All these things inspire me, and they don’t feel ‘less’ than my work driving zodiacs in the Arctic or performing in theatres,” he said.

Also, David’s wife is expecting their third child, so he’s been relishing the opportunity for his family to reconnect and ground together.

Still, he said, it’s impossible not to be impacted by everything that’s going on in the world.

“People are really suffering,” he said, “and the world is changing fast, and while I’ve been among the very luckiest, I still feel that at some level. Plus, I’ve lost the applause and the excitement of travel and the vibe that comes with always doing new and interesting things with amazing people and a strong sense of purpose. Plus, being at home for so long has led to some overdue introspection that has been good, but at times difficult. So I have had my share of anxiety and depression. Again, I’m grateful for my family and for the blessings we enjoy. Gratitude always helps me regain equilibrium.”

David has only done one single performance since the pandemic hit Canada: a cover of the title track of Brent Mason’s new CD, Fireflies. He also helped Marie-Lynn Hammond with an audio project in the garage where his family keeps its bicycles.

“The wall was the old Roots Music Canada Woodshed studio floor,” he said. “Something about that reminded me that nothing ever goes to waste — especially not the energy we spend on creativity and community.”

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